Apprenticeship to Love: Meditations on this Path to Authentic Relationship, January 30, 2024
- Today's playlist: Kats-Chernin: Unsent Love Letters, Meditations on Eric Satie https://classical.music.apple.com/ca/album/1452385366?l=en-CA
- Today’s questions: What do you choose? To be broken open to being taught, by yourself or some hard teacher who holds you to your edge? Or do you choose to “do it your way,” continuing whatever cycle of pleasure/suffering you’re currently committed to? All of us are here, being broken open to learn, or hardening ourselves on the wheel of our willfulness. What do you choose?
- Today's suggested practice: Day 26 of this month's practice, a breath work for "balancing," to allow these thoughts and feelings to move through you, with less resistance (see my "Short Practice,” below)
- My practice today: 5am: 45 minutes: yoga, pranayama, Ganesha mantra.
- My vulnerability practice: to be so tender that I am teachable
★ Starting this evening, January 30, the monthly (10x, no workshops July and August) Apprenticeship to Love Virtual Workshops will feature my couples' retreat co-host Sarah Anderson. $111 per virtual workshop or FREE to Premium subscribers (only $5/month)
A FEW WORDS TO BEGIN THIS YEAR
Strange, the angels who fly through my life, leaving gifts, bringing gifts, unbidden. This one, born of a chance meeting a dozen years ago, brings me her art via her Instagram. And, today, her observation on the necessity of enjoying the flower of happiness as it "gently lands" on her shoulder.
She is, in her patience and willingness to allow this feeling to be, and to move, as it will, the midwife to her happiness, and to the beauty she brings to all of us who are paying attention.
A man, a coach of men, asked those of us who are more than 20 years into this life, what one piece of advice we would give to younger men.
My contribution: Slow down. Allow yourself to enjoy this moment.
But this is not news to you; you, dear reader, you already know that I offer this advice to myself almost daily, and to anyone —man or woman— who rides the hobbyhorses of their passions. Slow down. Let this life, Her flow, nourish you. I have learned that it will not happen when I move quickly. This is why Stephen Jenkinson's story of "breaking momentum" is so deeply important. Slow down. Let the moment have its way with you.
It is, for me, a constant: the tension between my willfulness —“my way,” as Sinatra so famously sang— or the way of the teacher.
It was put to me once in this way: Do you choose the dharma, or do you choose karma? My interpretation: Do I surrender to the way of the teacher that is being shown (dharma), or do I continue to willfully beat my head against the wall of life and the consequences of my willfulness (karma)?
In that moment, on the morning of another session in the “Fearless Intimacy” co-ed polarities weekend intensive with John Wineland and his team, I knew. And, later that day when I, as one of the 40 masculine practitioners, was invited to attend the follow-up “Fierce Intimacy” weekend, I said, Yes! Emphatically, Yes! I surrendered myself —and cash I didn’t think I could afford, and could not afford not to surrender— to following this teacher. At least for a while my struggle with karma was relinquished.
And so my dear friend’s hunger for more that will not satisfy, is recognized as my discomfort at seeing my reflection, at hearing the echo of my own previous hunger. A habit of my unhappiness. Nothing I say will change anything for this friend. But I can “do” something: know that their decision to cycle through the pleasure/suffering of karma brings me to my edge. And only love. Only compassion. Only recognition saves me from my own habits of karma. This friend, they are me. So I practice.
I will circle back —or, my preferred image, will “spiral through” and always at a “higher” elevation— to how irritated I am at the teachings delivered through my friend and their willfulness. It is a habit, this irritation. This denial of myself in their actions, words.
But I don’t so much try to change the habit now as use it. As my own habit, it is perhaps simply a tool of the teacher within, that inner guru who is always inviting me to move from the darkness of ignorance to the light of —yes— enlightenment.
Let me say this, before I say more: The most difficult teachers have been my best teachers. The ones I resist, they break me open that I may learn. And because I am my most difficult and challenging teacher I need an amount (always more than I imagine) of solitude. To sit. With myself. With my willfulness. My obstinance. My denial. All of it! To sit alone because I am not fit company for humans. Dogs, maybe. Humans, no. Loved ones and innocent bystanders, most definitely not. So let me sit, alone, with this most difficult teacher, that I am a little more humane with the world. She deserves this.
When I choose ease and comfort, I deny this teacher.
Denying this teacher, I make myself miserable, and then am drawn to share this misery with all who are near. And even those who are not so near.
As a teacher I do this most awful and beautiful thing: I work, hard, to make your life as uncomfortable as I make mine. It is only at the edges of our comforts that we begin to know. And so my gift to you is to make every effort to bring you to the place where you can no longer pretend that all is well. You wouldn’t be here, either reading this or studying with me, if you believed that.
So now you know. And with a little help —a few classes or some coaching— you will begin to know that you are your own teacher. You may take some of the techniques I share and be that most difficult person in your life, the one who knows how to take you to and beyond your edge, so that you know yourself, your path, stop standing in your own way.
But don’t think it’s easy! You and I, we have spent our lives pretending we know our way. If we haven’t sung along with Sinatra, we certainly nod in agreement: I WILL do it “my way.” And clinging to the karmic cycle we’ve created we will continue to plunge into the cycle of pleasure/comfort/suffering that keeps bringing us to this classroom door.
One day we open the door. Or maybe many days. I’m pretty sure I’m the obstinate one who leaves the lesson early, only to have to return. Again. And yet again.
But let’s imagine that one day —and maybe that day was that morning in San Francisco in 2019 when I chose dharma over karma— one day we knock on the door and it opens. And inside is the promise of light, and the promise of hard work. Homework that requires choosing pain, and choosing to love the pain, because finally I am ready to know that this light —this “enlightenment,” as it were— is the knowledge of love. It is effortless, and yet requires me to hold space for all the pain of it too. Until I am relieved. But let me know this before I die.
So, here I am. It’s years later.
It’s a strange thing, to be content. Without hunger. The culture stokes hunger, appetite. Is itself manically ravenous, consuming us, the world. I am here to hold Her. Appreciate Her. See Her. Know Her. Somehow the teacher has been teacher and the learner has been learning. A miracle.
🌀Happiness is a butterfly, and I hold my breath, as I feel how it gently lands on my shoulder for a brief moment.
Nothing special has happened, just living my life in this city, being a sculpture student, dreaming, cooking dinner with friends. I know that this will pass, this will all just become a fading memory. So I just hold my breath and stare at the captivating pattern on the delicate wings. (Anastasia Areyeva)
🌀In these moments, the unbelievable and the impossible slip away, and in the presence of belief, possibility arrives; actuality reveals; that the desired outcome already exists.
…get out there; be bold; and know that belief bends the flow of your world, like valleys bend the flow of a river . .. (Guru Singh & Guruperkarma Kaur)
🌀I lament that many people cannot discern real teaching. There is a difference between leading, performing, and teaching. (Kimberly Ann Johnson)
🌀I test you. (My beloved, my Oracle & Siren)
TODAY'S SUGGESTED SHORT PRACTICE
Day 30 of this month's practice, to let these thoughts and feelings move through you, with less resistance:
Please read through first, then ...
- Set an alarm, for a time of the day when you have a few minutes to become conscious of who and how you are in this day
- When the alarm sounds, wherever and however you are, take a few minutes and:
- Ask yourself: What do you choose? To be broken open to being taught, by yourself or some hard teacher who holds you to your edge? Or do you choose to “do it your way,” continuing whatever cycle of pleasure/suffering you’re currently committed to? All of us are here, being broken open to learn, or hardening ourselves on the wheel of our willfulness. What do you choose?
- Then, follow the short practice here:
- When you’re done, sit or stand for another minute or two, breathing gently, slowly filling and emptying your belly. Here, as you breathe into your fullness, ask yourself, Do I feel right? In alignment with the man or woman I am? Do I even have an inkling what that might feel like? Do I even have an inkling of what it feels like to be out of alignment with myself?
- Notice if your body-mind feels somehow changed. And whether you notice a change or not, be content with yourself, exactly as you are in this moment.
- Continue with your day until the next alarm sounds, and repeat.
★ WHEN YOU ARE READY FOR MORE
In 2024 I am hosting a series of short in-person and virtual workshops, as well as weekend and mini-retreats for couples. Please see the upcoming events site at sacredbodies.ca/events for more information. ★ NOTE: For some of these there will be discounts for Premium+ and Premium+ EXTRA subscribers.